Let me be up front about one thing right away. Im no lock to tell you who to pick. More on that later.
But Ive been doing some scouring of the stats, some looking at the recent trends and watching a few players closely. I think we all agree that its easy to pick Tiger, Vijay, Phil, Ernie or Retief. And Ive done it. More on that later.
But Im the guy who likes to put focus elsewhere. I like to take stock in a few who might be flying under the radar. Lets face it, we look pretty good if we come up with the less than obvious picks from time to time.
Heck, amidst a firestorm of Tiger, Phil and Vijay picks by our other panelists at the Ford Championship at Doral, I went with gritty South African Tim Clark to win at Doral this year. Go ahead, check the results. He didnt winbut.
And Tim Clark wouldnt be a bad pick for a Top 10 contention at Pinehurst. He hits it straight and is a pretty good putter. Hes not my pick. But Id understand a good week.
Here are some names to toss around in your head. See if any of them stick.
Luke Donald comes to mind quickly. Top 50 in the World Golf Ranking. Hes straight as a string for the most part. He hits greens and hes wonderful with course management. Im not picking him but Id understand a good week.
Tom Lehman. Prior to an injury he was finding his game and getting the results. Lehmans not yet 100 percent. But he knows what it takes at a U.S. Open. Hes been there and if he gets a feeling that he can do it, he could surprise. Im not picking him but Id understand.
Jeff Maggert. For whatever reason, Maggert has a passion for contention in the biggest events. He had some fun at the Masters for a while. Hes had plenty of fun in U.S. Opens gone bye. Im not picking him. But Id understand a competitive week.
Justin Leonard. Leonard has exactly the mental approach that it takes. When he drives it well ' look out. Leonard didnt exactly finish strong at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. But he won. And he knows how. Thats big. Im not picking him. But Id understand if you did.
Nick Price. Nick was given an exemption and also an invitation to come look at the early stages of the set up at Pinehurst by the USGA. Nicks been critical of U.S. Open set ups in the past and I think it was a great call to give him a sneak peak and ask his opinion. Price is one of golfs greatest gentlemen. He always has been. And I still think ' like Lehman ' theres got to be a few ounces of lightening bottled up. Im not picking him. But Id understand a good week.
To me, Retief Goosen ranks first among the so called Big 5, followed closely by Phil Mickelson. At this stage I still see Tiger getting another major this year, but not this one. Ernie Els said Thursday at the Memorial that his concentration was lacking a bit which is more difficult to deal with than swing problems. That concerns me. And Ive been a huge Els promoter this year. Vijays 77 Thursday at Muirfield Village doesnt make me feel great. But Vijay is tougher than a six-piece golf ball and two weeks off might not have been great. Congressional will be perfect for him next week so look out come U.S. Open week. Im not picking any one of them at this point. But Id certainly understand if you did.
Heres my Big 4. As I look toward the U.S. Open.
David Toms. Toms is ready for another major championship. Pinehurst fits him perfectly. Look at his recent record which is ramping toward good things. Look at the venues of his PGA Tour wins and look specifically at what part of the country he won the PGA Championship. Toms is a master at being cool when its hot. I like him. Im just not picking him to win. But Id definitely understand.
Chris DiMarco. DiMarco is ready. I know what youre thinking. Kraig ' did you see what happened at New Orleans? Yes. But Im a forgiving guy. DiMarco isnt the longest or always the straightest. But hes one of the best putters and he loves fast greens. No golf course will out tough DiMarco. Check his majors record the last two years. Im not picking him. But Id understand.
Kenny Perry. All this guy wants is a major championship. He came close in Louisville. He loves it when it gets hot. Perry is hot right now. Hes long, long, long and straight, straight and straight. And hes accurate. Real accurate. Perry is dangerous on the greens when hes feeling it. Id love to see a major come his way. I really would. I cant quite pick him. But I sure would understand.
My pick is Jim Furyk. Furyk is so due to break out its laughable. I wont bore you with his results but hes been close of late with consistency. His record this year is terrific. He hasnt won since the 2003 Buick Open ' just after the U.S. Open he won in Chicago. Furyk will get another major. And I really think hes ready. Hes ready to win any week and the difference between just any event and a U.S. Open is that hes not afraid. Furyk did it before, and any glimpse of contention will have people taking him very seriously. Ive liked him for three months now and have been biting my tongue, my lip and my chin.
Now. Back to my track record on picking the winners. I picked Ernie Els to win the Masters and we all know what happened back in April. I also picked Phil Mickelson to win The Players Championship. Last year I picked Chad Campbell to win the PGA Championship. I also picked ' gulp ' the United States to win the Ryder Cup.
Its so easy to cave and go with the real Big 4. With 10 days or so to make the picks official, I still like Furyk a lot. But you know what if you think Im crazy Id understand.
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann